Recommended reading: “Grimoire Aisle 4”
Scarlet light poured across the dancing bodies, mine included. The odor of sweat and alcohol was both suffocating and intoxicating, filling me up, driving me to dance harder. Through the fog I felt a stranger’s breath tickle the back of my neck. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw large hands hovering above my hips, just waiting for my go-ahead to grab me, pull me in close. Real close. The music poured through every cell of my brain, driving me over the edge. I was too far gone to care. I reached back, curled my fingers through the stranger’s hair, pressed my back into their chest and-
“Mary!” a voice screamed into my left ear over the ongoing music, a techno remix of YMCA. I instinctively raised my arms to make the letters, but the voice’s owner grabbed them, pushed them down, and then shoved something cold into my hands. “Drink this!”
“But,” I cried, shoving the drink away, “I wanna dance!”
“Not like this!” Their body was a dark silhouette against the red light. I narrowed my eyes, trying to see. It was some guy. He looked familiar…
“Like how?!” I exclaimed, pouting.
“Fucked up, that’s how.” He took the drink from me and held it to my lips. I drank, still trying to remember who the hell he was supposed to be…Billy? Bobby? The cold water woke me up a little, clearing up my vision. The guy was dressed up, his hair slicked back, with multiple piercings on his ears, nose, and lips.
Cute, I thought giddily. I reached out to touch his face.
He rolled his eyes and smacked my hand away.
Tears immediately began to well up in my eyes. “Y-you don’t think I’m pretty?” I whimpered, pulling away.
Bilbo (?) exhaled deeply as he set the glass down on the nearby table. “Just not my type. Especially not when you're yanking at my hair and attacking me with your butt," he told me, leaning in. “I’m gonna go find the girls and call an Uber. You’re done.”
“No!” I shrieked. I looked around desperately for an escape route. Boyde(?) had dragged me over to one of the booths. It was situated next to wall of tinted windows. The booth’s leather fabric made my butt sweaty and the back of my knees itchy. I stood up. Bugs(?) instantly reached out and pulled the frumpy hem of my dress down. I wobbled and burped and then gagged as beer breath filled my eyes, made them start to burn. I waved my hands frantically in front of my face to try and make it stop. “Ewwwwww!”
Bucky(?) stood up, took ahold of my shoulders, and gently but firmly made me sit back down. He then scooted out of the booth, told me, “STAY,” and then walked back into the crowd. I stuck my tongue out after him, crossed my arms over my chest, and slumped back against the booth. I glanced towards the windows. I could make out cars weaving into the parking lot outside, people standing in a line, waiting to get in. Hell Nights was THE place to be these days…Especially today…My birthday…Birthnight?
“Happy birthnight to me, happy birthnight to me,” I sang to my reflection, bobbing my head back and forth. “Happy birthnight to Mary. Happy-”
Other me disappeared.
“No!” I slumped forward and knocked on the window. “Come back, me! OW!” I yanked my hand back. Blood trickled from a cut across my palm, staining the front of my dress. I stared at it dumbly.
“HELP…ME!” I looked up. The window had cracked, becoming a spiderweb of shards. Instead of falling out, they were all being held in by white light. That light screamed with a girl’s voice, “PLEASE, HELP ME!” And then a disembodied arm broke through the fractured window. The shards sliced at it as the hand clenched and unclenched, desperate to find something to grab ahold of.
I stared at it.
And then looked over at the drink.
What the fuck did Biaggio(?) slip me?
“ANYBODY!” the voice cried, regaining my likely roofied attention. The arm reached down and grabbed hold of the booth. It yanked and a shoulder and head broke through the magic window’s pieces. An Asian lady’s cut-up face stared back at me. Her eyes were pink and spilling tears of blood, and her black hair was a sweaty mess. Her eyes locked with mine. “PLEASE!” she gasped, more blood trickling through her teeth and spilling down her chin. “HELP! HELP! HELP!”
“…Uh, okay,” I said with a why-not kind of shrug. By that point she had managed to get her other arm through the window. I grabbed ahold of both her forearms and pulled with all my might. “COME…ON!” I howled. I brought my feet up and pushed them up against the booth to try and get more leverage. The heels of my shoes tore into the leather as I pulled. “COME…TO…MAMA!!!”
The magic lady slipped through the window and landed on top of me. Thanks to the shards, her body was completely sliced up in places. While she simultaneously thanked me and sobbed into my chest, I looked down at her. The back of her frilly dress was marred by a long gash. Unlike the other cuts, this one was deep and tore through the muscle and…was smoking?
The sound of grinding glass pierced through the still-ongoing music. Nobody else seemed to have noticed the magic window, at least not inside the club. I looked up. Something else was coming through. Something big. Whatever it was pushed against the window’s shards with its face. Through the cracks, giant, black eyes with burning red pupils appeared. They stared right at me, filling me with their hate. A hate so pure that I peed myself right then and there.
Magic lady noticed the monster, (not me peeing, I think) and rolled off of me. She grabbed ahold of my hands, and it was her turn to pull. I stumbled out of the booth and limped after her. She was trying to get away from the window, but by this point people had noticed. Party animals were stampeding towards us, their phones out. I think I saw the magic lady glance back, smile for a fraction of a second, and then pull me through the crowd. Her grip was strong despite the blood loss. We managed to get out onto the dance floor. Magic lady suddenly whirled around and asked/screamed at me, “What happened to the gas station?”
Oh! Oh, right!
“Bulldozed ten years ago!”
“Ten years…” Magic lady shook her head and screamed/asked as she resumed pulling me along, “Do you have a car?!”
“Er, yeah,” I called back. Technically I wasn’t lying. I did own a car. It was at home, because (memory coming back to me) Bueford(?) had paid for the Uber here.
I had to find him.
These drugs he’d slipped me were amaze-balls!
“Who are you?! “ I screamed at my new imaginary friend, pointing over my shoulder. It was impossible to see the window now through the crowd of people now. “What is that thing?!”
“A monster,” she answered back, her eyes locking on the exit. She then half-led, half-dragged me through Hell Nights. We were almost to the door before the music suddenly cut off and all the lights in the place went dead. A moment of startled, confused silence followed. Long enough for me to hear magic lady hiss under her breath, “Shi-!”
The rest of the word was drowned out by a booming howl that rocked the club to its core.
A ripple of blue light flowed through the club, knocking every member of the crowd away and into the air. Whimpers and cries rang out as they landed and slid across the nearby dance floor. Anybody still dancing was either knocked onto their asses or managed to jump out of the way. The ripple knocked both me and magic lady off of our feet. We landed near the DJ’s podium, with her using her body to cushion my fall. I could feel her heart racing frantically as she held me tight, her arms wrapped around my chest.
And then the lights came back on. That’s when the real screaming started.
Standing in front of the ruined glass wall was the BIGGEST fucking dog I’d ever seen in my life. It was like if Clifford the Big Red Dog was bit by a were-human and became a reverse-werewolf! And then, if Clifford the Reverse-Werewolf fucked a samurai wizard, THIS was their baby! The monster’s fur was blood-red, covering his whole, super-duper muscular body and stood on end. He stood on two feet while gripping a six-foot-long, blue butcher knife in his left hand. Eyes literally on fire, Clifford bared yellow fangs and pointed with the clawed index finger of his right hand at me. “Nowhere left to run!”
“Heh,” magic lady sneered by my ear, “not out of tricks yet, starved dog.”
“MARY!” a voice suddenly cried to our left. I glanced that way and saw Balto(?) scrambling towards me. He and my four lifelong, best girlfriends(…?) fought through the panicked crowd to get to me, followed close behind by a pair of burly bouncers. All of them stopped dead in their tracks the second they saw Clifford. The dogman in question leaned forward and leapt at me and magic lady. The force exerted by his paw shattered the section of the floor beneath him to pieces.
“Defend!” magic lady suddenly cried. Scarlet light suddenly poured across my face. It was coming from my waist. Confused, I looked down and saw that she was holding a tiny black book open, its pages aflame with red fire. “Defend! DEFEND!”
There was moment on either side of us. A pair of fleshy, deformed wings extended out of the gash in her back and filled the air with goopy, bleeding feathers. Clifford spun his knife across the front of his body. The blade’s metal burned with its own fire as it deflected most of the feathers. Yet the impact knocked him back, making his feet slam and burrow through the dance floor.
“Maraaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!” Bruce(?) howled. The rest of magic lady’s feathers had hit him, my girlfriends, and the bouncers. The places where they’d been struck bubbled and then exploded into taffy-like tentacles. The tentacles shot out like ropes and latched onto each other, pulling my friends and the bouncers together. More tumors tore through their clothes and burst. The puss melded their bodies together, transforming them into two giant, multi-armed, multi-legged blobs. The blobs’ eyes streamed with tears and their mouths wailed in agony and begged for help as the main bodies rushed at Clifford, flanking him on both sides.
The one with Beck’s(?) deformed face lunged at him.
There was a flash of blue as Clifford drove his cleaver straight up, cutting the blob in half. Both pieces wriggled and kept on screaming as blue fire ate them from the inside out. Two charred pieces of dead meat hit the floor.
Howard, I finally remembered. His name was Howard.
As the first blob burned, the second got up behind Clifford and wrapped its blobby arms around him, all the while screaming with multiple, disjointed voices, “HELP ME! PLEASE! IT HURTS! MAKE IT STO-!”
Its screaming was cut short by Clifford driving his knife straight through his own stomach, through his back, and into the blob’s head. Blue fire rippled from its face and across the rest of its body, cremating the monster like it had the first.
“Bastard!” magic lady suddenly hissed, forcing herself and me back to our feet. She had one arm around my neck, while pressing her book to her stomach. Her wings had dissolved to steaming puddles of red gunk on either side of us.
Clifford pulled the knife out of his gut, stepped over the first blob and turned his attention back to us. The metal cauterized the wound on both sides, keeping any of his guts from spilling out. He limped on slightly as he stepped over Howard and my friends’ charred, mutated remains and boomed a howl at me and magic lady.
“I-I don’t like this anymore!” I blubbered. I tried to break out of her grip. “Go away! Make it stop! Let me g-!”
A searing cold piece of glass sliced open my throat.
Magic lady pushed me away and I slammed into the floor.
“Like old times!” she laughed and bolted towards the exit.
“…H-happy…birthnight t-to…me,” I whispered to myself as blood gushed out of my throat. For a moment, I saw nothing but shadow as Clifford leapt over me. “…Happy birth…night…to…me…” My vison was fading. All I could see was his red fur as he suddenly stopped moving. “Ha…ppy…b-birth…n-night….t…to…M-Mary…” A hot tear spilled from my left eye and into the pool of blood. “Ha…ha…happy…t-t…me…”
I closed my eyes. My last words echoed through my skull, wrapping around me like chains, sending me sinking into the dark…
Only for a scarlet light to suddenly pull me back up while saying, “Mend, mend, mend.”
Gasping, I bolted upright into a sitting position. I clutched at me throat, it was slick with blood, my blood, but uncut. Healed.
“The hell?!” I cried, turning around.
I flinched back when I saw a very naked, very muscular man kneeling over me. He was dark-skinned, but his beard and mop of hair, and the pupils of his eyes glowed crimson. Clifford’s knife was stabbed into the floor right behind him, mist emanating from the metal like wispy, pale hands. As the man took his hand back, his hair and eyes became a normal shade of brown.
I opened and closed my mouth repeatedly before finally getting out, “W-who are you?”
“To answer your first question,” he glanced over at still-burning, conjoined bodes. Guilt and anger flashed across his face. “That’s a long story.”
He took a deep breath and tried his best to shoot me a comforting smile. “But to answer the second.” He placed a hand to his chest. “Name’s Kennedy Lincoln Washington. But just ‘Prez’ will do.”